Dumpster Diving in the Digital Age


In this day and age it is hard to imagine many of the realities of life today. Chances are, if you are reading this it is safe to say that you can provide for yourself in some fashion and that your needs have been met, and some of your wants. This is not the case with all of humankind. Many folks do without on a daily basis and are not able, for one reason or another to sustain themselves. This piece is not a diatribe on feeding the poor, although that would be grist for the mill of my personal viewpoint. Today is about waste. Specifically, I am writing about the discarding of goods which are completely useable but get disposed of every day.

I watched a show recently where the Food Channel had four of their chefs participate in a cook-off. This was a different situation then most shows with competitions. They were tasked with providing a several course meal for 100 people using only ingredients they had collected from shops, restaurants, farms, or factories that were about to discard the items. What they found amazed and dismayed them.

Now these are all high-powered, famous chefs. All either own numerous restaurants or have run kitchens in prestigious establishments. One is a nationally known celebrity chef. What they discovered is that, especially farms growing produce for restaurants and groceries, up to one third of the world's food gets thrown away because of appearance and presentation issues. If the item is not attractive to the eye then their customers do not want them. When faced with this reality, they each grew sad and disappointed.

There is a problem in the world where it comes to distribution of income. We have all read or heard that in the news, and that the upper percentage holders (1,2,3%) control everything. Perhaps it is time for that upper crust to have to live the way the other 97%. There are people in the world that fall outside that collected statistic. The forgotten ones that are rarely reported living lives of desperation because they do not have access to basic needs such as food and water. Currently about 925 million people, or roughly 14 % of the world population suffer from what health agencies call undernourishment. Wouldn’t it be nice if the discarded, “blemished” tons of food could be collected and used to feed those who suffer through famine?

An impossible task you might say, but is it truly okay to not do anything? I do not find it difficult to embrace this ideal. I used to be homeless and have been obese all my life. I never lacked for food when I was on the street once I lowered my expectations on how it should look. Perhaps a few nights on the street might prove a wakeup call for those making one of Forbes income list. It might also help them know that they are not in the world alone.

There is already a group of individuals, and the numbers are growing, that choose a life of scavenging over conventional avenues of support. They are called Freegans. Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded in shops, restaurants, farms, factories and homes. It is an ever increasing population and can only grow larger.

Integral to this Freegan lifestyle is the ability to look in unusual spots for your meals. In the city this means finding the large containers behind shops, restaurants, farms, or factories and treat them as if they were public pools…jump on in!

The following, drawn from http://trashwiki.org/en/Dumpster_diving explains it better:

“Dumpster Diving is looking for goods, most notably food, in dumpsters. In many Western countries it is possible to find perfectly good food, right in front of supermarkets, in backyards or in dumpsters. The practice is not, however, limited to rummaging for food. Many "dumpster divers" search for anything that can be recycled or reused, from accessories to power tools in need of small repairs.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Bring a bottle of water, to wash your hands when you dive into bags of fruits and vegetables
  • Always make sure you don't make a mess (i.e. open and close bags nicely)
  • In the unlikely case you did not manage to find a couch and need to sleep on the street: Look for recycling bins to get cardboard for sleeping in
  • When walking in big cities there's always something to dive, be it an abandoned skateboard, or someone putting their whole household on the street.
  • Consider when people will be moving in/out of apartments. For instance, in a city with a lot of university students, the first of the month near the start or end of the school term is a great time to go dumpster diving. Notice when students are moving out of dorms and what day the school's graduation is. Graduating seniors often trash especially nice stuff, since they will not be returning the following year.
  • Dumpster diving may be illegal in certain places, but enforcement is rare. In either case you may want to keep an eye out for police or unsympathetic property owners”

While seemingly unattractive to many, this is nothing more then a return to the way mankind used to be. Hunter/Gathers were our original ancestors and lived a pretty good life considering what was available. They spent most of their time in community, spending time with their kids, and seeking spiritual guidance. Today, most hunt and gather at places where much of what they are hunting for is thrown away because it doesn’t look good. Mmmmm…I wonder what the nearly 1 billion “undernourished” people would think about that?

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